2023 Nissan Z Performance: Guardian of the Legacy – Review

The Nissan Z, from now on the sporty compact of Nissan, will be summed up with this single letter, no more numerical prefix to announce us its cubic capacity. Considering that with this 2023 generation, it undergoes a first reduction in displacement in its history, adopting the 300Z name would be a step back. Even if she refuses to go back to one of her old names, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t pay tribute to it in some way. In addition, while the first generation Z was inspired in 1969 by the Jaguar E-Type or another Ferrari 250, the seventh of the name no longer needs to look elsewhere, but is inspired by the six others that have preceded it.

Tribute to every generation

Nissan is playing the retro card like we’ve rarely seen it in the automotive world. Here we don’t settle for an easy caricature of a previous version. With the NissanZ2023, we pay tribute to almost every generation with striking styling cues.

We started in 1969 with the two LED circles in the headlight units, which made a strong reference to the headlights of the Datsun 240Z, then the Nissan 260Z, 280Z and 280ZX. We pass the 300ZX (Z31) from 1983 to 1989, which also has a 3.0-litre V6 turbo, to arrive at the 300ZX (Z32) launched in 1989 to 1999. For her, it is the lights behind that are projected in time. We find the same configuration as then, but it is now more compact and everything is LED.

The Z returns in 2003 to 2009 under the name 350Z. What makes the tire with the new Z is the rectangular grille. The most striking point in the design history of the Z is undoubtedly the roof, which descends in an almost straight line from the windscreen to the trunk. We’ve seen it on almost every generation, and the 2023 Z is no exception. A satin aluminum band has been added to emphasize this feature.

The base Sport version in 2023 offers only one body color, but the Performance and Proto models get a contrasting black roof. Among other accolades, the Sport has 18-inch wheels, while the others roll on 19-inch. For the Performance they are painted black, while the Proto gets them gold. Finally, the last notable differentiation for the Sport, it does not have a spoiler on the trunk.

Modern, but an essential detail

The Z is rethinking its interior for the better. We are entering the modern era with fully digital instruments with a 12.3-inch display that is comparable to that of other Nissan products. Given the Z’s vocation, Nissan adds a third sportier graphic design alongside the other two more traditional ones. The steering wheel has the same heel as the Nissan GT-R for better grip. In addition, it contains a series of buttons that allow the management of the instrumentation. At the top of the dashboard, an essential feature of the Z, the presence of 3 dials: the first for the turbo pressure, the second for the turbo speed and the third for the battery supply voltage. This last dial (technically unusable) refers to the car from the 1970s.

Just below, the vents have a mesh that gives a stylistic nod to the lights in their layout. As for the multimedia system, we get an 8-inch screen for all models. It is functional and well placed. The air conditioning controls are lower and remain simple as they are buttons. Since we are in a sports car, the storage space in the console as well as in the doors and trunk is limited to 241 liters. The seats offer good lumbar support, but in the case of the seat it is very curved and also very short. Comfort seems relative to me. The quality of the interior trim improves greatly, at least for the Performance and Proto versions. The Sport model abandons leather for cloth and more plastic.

Thank you Infiniti

Historically, the number preceding the famous Z illustrated the engine’s displacement under the hood. In the case of the 370Z we were talking about a 3.7-litre V6, but in the new Z it’s a twin-turbo V6 of ‘only’ 3.0 liters. So the folks at Nissan saw it as a step backwards to bring back the 300Z name. Nissan is turning to the Red Sport range of the Infiniti Q50/Q60 to extract powerful mechanics from it. It develops 400 horsepower and produces 350 lb-ft of torque. The latter is available at low revs, from 1,600 rpm thanks to the recirculation of gases in the turbocharger. This reduces the unpleasant delay of the turbo kicking in for a livelier performance.

As for the gearbox, there is a six-speed manual transmission and an engine speed synchronization system during downshifts. That is why the regime is always on the lookout for maximum power. This box is even available with a launch mode (launch control) in the Performance and Proto model. For an additional $1,500, you get access to the Nissan-designed 9-speed automatic transmission, which is shared in part with the 2022 Frontier. The latter also comes with a launch mode. To aid dynamic performance, the rear differential lock is mechanical and no longer viscous as before.

Duality track and road

The test was conducted in three phases. The first, on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway circuit for a few gears that emphasized the power of the mechanics and the “launch control”. First observation: we don’t feel the 400 horses with the same fury as in the Red Sport. Even with the “start” mode, I was not crushed in my seat.

Comes the track where we passed the manual and automatic transmissions. The track made it possible to be fast enough to stay in 3rd and even briefly in 4th gear. The responsiveness of the turbocharger and the available torque at low revs ensure good acceleration out of corners. I admit I prefer the more mechanical sensations of the old manual gearbox. The new one is technically better accomplished, but loses communication with the pilot.

The suspension is the weak point of the new Z, at least from a track use standpoint. They are not sturdy enough to follow curves in a chicane without the rear axle fluttering slightly. Fortunately, the front tires are wider than before and go to 255. The front axle has a better grip. Nissan preferred to replace the brake components for Nismo (optional) for this work. Unable to test the durability of the new 14-inch front and 13.8-inch rear vented discs. During the track training, even the Nismos lacked bite.

On the road, the Z shines brightly. The steering offers good precision and allows us to be in communication with the car. In a daily driving context, the power of the mechanics delivers the goods without rushing us, while the automatic does not lend itself to criticism. The reports follow each other with great flexibility. On the other hand, the “Sport” mode is not used much except to increase the engine speeds and stretch the reports. You remember the “molasses” suspensions on the track, well, it’s for the road that they are configured. We are for comfort and since it is rather inadvisable to drive furiously on public roads, they do their job well in this context.


I argue that the 2023 Nissan Z is a touring car, not a sports car, at least in this configuration. Nissan has not confirmed it, but we suspect there will be a Nismo in the coming years where the Z will be reoriented towards more aggressiveness. When it comes to price, the Sport starts at $48,448 and the Performance model at $60,448. For those who want a more special character, the lineup is only headed for 2023 Proto Spec starting at $66,198. All these prices are for manual transmission versions and include freight and delivery charges. Add $1,500 for automatic.

Given the novelty, we recommend that you wait until the second year of production before starting. One thing is certain, this car, despite its few flaws, is a fine embodiment of what should be the guardian of a heritage as rich as that of the Nissan Z.

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